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Archive for February, 2010

Sunday Night

February 28, 2010 Leave a comment

Nothing like a Sunday night in late winter to crush the soul…

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Baseball

February 28, 2010 Leave a comment

Pete Hamill reviews the new book, Willie Mays: The Life, the Legend in today’s New York Times. 

The opening paragraph struck me as brilliant:

A long time ago in America, there was a beautiful game called baseball. This was before 30 major-league teams were scattered in a blurry variety of divisions; before 162-game seasons and extended playoffs and fans who watched World Series games in thick down jackets; before the D.H. came to the American League; before AstroTurf on baseball fields and aluminum bats on sandlots; before complete games by pitchers were a rarity; before ballparks were named for corporations instead of individuals; and long, long before the innocence of the game was permanently stained by the filthy deception of steroids.

In that vanished time, there was a ballplayer named Willie Mays.

Call me sappy, call me old-fashioned, call me whatever.  But without having lived through that era of baseball, that excerpt sums up my feelings of the game perfectly.

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GOP needs to be vigilant against healthcare reform

February 28, 2010 Leave a comment

Andy McCarthy warns Republicans about the dangers of complacency:

The Democratic leadership has already internalized the inevitablility of taking its political lumps. That makes reconciliation truly scary. Since the Dems know they will have to ram this monstrosity through, they figure it might as well be as monstrous as they can get wavering Democrats to go along with. Clipping the leadership’s statist ambitions in order to peel off a few Republicans is not going to work.

 I’m glad Republicans have held firm, but let’s not be under any illusions about what that means. In the Democrat leadership, we are not dealing with conventional politicians for whom the goal of being reelected is paramount and will rein in their radicalism. They want socialized medicine and all it entails about government control even more than they want to win elections. After all, if the party of government transforms the relationship between the citizen and the state, its power over our lives will be vast even in those cycles when it is not in the majority.

This is about power, and there is more to power than winning elections, especially if you’ve calculated that your opposition does not have the gumption to dismantle your ballooning welfare state.

Read the entire post.

The fight against healthcare reform should never have been and never should be, solely about electoral victory in November of 2010 or 2012. 

McCarthy is right in that the real modus operandi behind progressive healthcare reform has always been about expanding the power of the Federal government—the only vestation of power in which the left believes. 

But I would take it a step further.  Part of the end-game is the destruction of the private insurance industry, which eventually makes way for government-run healthcare, single-payer and all the rest.  Liberals, along with the President, are on record acknowledging or embracing these ideals.  As a result, we have the President calling for price controls on the insurance industry, a public option that would “compete” with the healthcare insurers and “keep them honest”, and on and on.  Either way, government encroachment has always been the desired result.

Having said that, the worst thing Republicans could do is to cave and engage the Democrats in “bi-partisan” efforts at reform, which only encourages growth in the Federal government.  This is where all of the “conservative ideals” talk and all the Tea Party rhetoric will be put to the test.  If Republicans are truly worth their conservative salt, then they should continue their obstruction and continue until healthcare “reform” is dead.

Books as a social medium

February 27, 2010 Leave a comment

Social media expert Chris Grogan makes a great point about books and their authors in the era of social networking:

Fans are no longer silent onlookers in the experience of books (or art of any kind). They are participants.

[...]

[A] book is a media where readers and sometimes authors congregate– CONGREGATE –it means that authors get the opportunity to build relationships in a whole new way with readers. It means that the stories don’t have to stay linear, that the ideas don’t have to stay on one side of the page, that the experiences don’t have to end at the edge of the page.

[...]

[The] opportunity to empower your audience to actually be a community is a huge one, and shouldn’t be shrugged off without consideration.

I’m an avid reader of books—not e-readers or Kindles, but books.  But Grogan’s post makes sense.  Lately with books that I’ve read I find myself searching Twitter or Facebook to see if the author is in the larger conversation–whether it’s to complain or to commend.  This type of familiarity with writers was unheard of a few years ago.

Media declares healthcare summit a “tie”

February 26, 2010 Leave a comment

 That is to say, the Republicans “won” the summit:

[T]he tie goes to Republicans, according to operatives on both sides of the aisle — because the stakes were so much higher for Democrats trying to build their case for ramming reform through using a 51-vote reconciliation tactic.

“I think it was a draw, which was a Republican win,” said Democratic political consultant Dan Gerstein. “The Republican tone was just right: a respectful, substantive disagreement, very disciplined and consistent in their message.”

The White House and Hill Democrats had hoped congressional Republicans would prove themselves to be unruly, unreasonable and incapable of a serious policy discussion — “the face of gridlock,” as one Democrat put it hours before the summit.

It’s bad news for the left when Democrats acknowledge that Republicans–Republicans—came out looking like the winner in what essentially was a debate with the Obama-led Democrats.

I really don’t think that anyone who even bothered to pay attention was swayed in either direction.  If you opposed reform the summit didn’t change your mind, and likewise if you support reform.  But I think the onus was on reformists who desperately needed to sway undecideds.  Looking at a room of politicians trying to make sense of taking over almost 20% of the US economy, it wasn’t hard to see why they hadn’t moved at all.

Won’t somebody please think of the teeth!

February 26, 2010 Leave a comment

Democrat Louise Slaughter rolls up her sleeves and does the policy heavy lifting at the healthcare summit:

Ann Althouse opines:

One feels sorry for the woman who wore her dead sister’s dentures, but it doesn’t establish that one policy is better than another. It’s just a nervous cry to hurry up and do something. Do something… anything!

Indeed.  You can almost taste the desperation on the part of the Democrats.  They know that government-run healthcare is the crown jewel of the radical leftist agenda—the New Deal and Great Society all wrapped into one bureaucratic package.  And the window is closing, with their majorities possibly in the balance.

UPDATE.   The ultimate idiocy—Obamacare doesn’t even cover dental (via Ed Morrissey)

Paul Ryan dismantles the myth of deficit netural healthcare reform

February 26, 2010 4 comments

From what I’ve been reading, if the Republicans didn’t “win” the health care summit then at the very least they appeared to have held their own. 

The tipping point appears to have been this exchange between congressman Paul Ryan and the President:

It was a pleasure to watch Ryan single-handedly dismantle the lies and the shell-game economics of the partisan healthcare proposals put forth by Obama and the Democrats. 

Matthew Continetti captured the moment:

[Ryan] just launched a full-bore assault on the faulty assumptions behind the claim that the Obama health care plan will reduce the deficit. Obama didn’t even bother questioning Ryan’s presentation. He changed the subject to Medicare Advantage.

The expression on the president’s face as Ryan made his case was absolutely priceless. Simply put, he looked like someone who realizes he’s met his match.

Healthcare summit changes nothing

February 25, 2010 Leave a comment

How could it?  It was all for show:

Although the Democrats’ public stance will be to let the dust from Thursday’s bipartisan health care summit, several senior congressional Democratic sources concede to CNN that their plans moving forward on health care are not likely to be much different tomorrow than they were yesterday.

Democrats are actively looking into using the parliamentary shortcut known as reconciliation to get a health care bill to the President’s desk. They are specifically exploring two issues: The ins-and-outs of how the complicated process could work, and whether the votes are there in the Senate and House to execute such a strategy.

Nate Silver’s take is about right:

[T]here wasn’t much in the way of real news generated, and certainly wasn’t anything that might be considered a “game-changing” moment

[...]

[O]ne’s impression of where the health care debate stands is liable to be very similar to where it was 24 hours ago. Personally, I err a bit on the pessimistic side because (i) the math in the House, already challenging to the Democrats, [...] and (ii) it seems like there are a lot of ways the Democrats could fumble the exchange between the bipartisan tone they sought to strike today and their need to pass their policy in a reconciliation/majority-rules environment later on.

At the end of the day, the summit was just an attempt by the White House to focus the narrative as reformers vs. obstructionists, a pure circus for the peasants and a knee-jerk reaction to the Massachusetts election.  You really can’t blame him, because that’s where Obama is at his best. 

Whether this strategy worked however, remains to be seen.  As Silver notes, the scenario hasn’t really changed at all.  The Democrats still need to get enough votes in the House and make sure the Senate grows the spine to make such a pivotal vote.  As an anti-reform “obstructionist”, I’m hoping they fail to that end.

UPDATE.  Greg Sargent on the summit:

Congressional Dems will be just as skittish tomorrow as they were yesterday about moving forward alone via reconciliation. That means Dems still have an enormously difficult task ahead.

[...]

Dems will find themselves in exactly the same position tomorrow as they did yesterday: Confronting the enormously difficult task of passing ambitious reform on their own.

That appears to be the left’s consensus on the healthcare summit.

Unemployment still going strong

February 25, 2010 Leave a comment

Lost in all the buzz over today’s healthcare summit, this week’s unemployment numbers were released:

The number of Americans filing first-time claims for unemployment insurance unexpectedly increased last week, a sign that the economic recovery will be uneven as the labor market struggles to rebound.

Initial jobless applications rose by 22,000 to 496,000 in the week ended Feb. 20, Labor Department figures showed today in Washington. The total number of people receiving unemployment insurance gained and those receiving extended benefits decreased.

[...]

A Labor Department spokesman said part of the reason for the increase in weekly claims was the processing of a backlog of applications in mid-Atlantic states and New England, where snowstorms hit earlier this month.

From the DOL press release:

The 4-week moving average was 473,750, an increase of 6,000 from the previous week’s revised average of 467,750.

Without a doubt the bad weather will affect these reports, that much isn’t up for debate.  But as an overall trend these numbers aren’t pretty.

This is a crude assumption, but my guess is that until the average claims reach 400,000 there won’t be a significant change in the unemployment rate to the downside.  And maybe even to 350,000 before we see any net positive effect on the economy as a whole.

Ignoring cost containment

February 25, 2010 Leave a comment

For all the President’s blabbing  about keeping costs down as a key component of healthcare reform, it didn’t take long for politics to win out over policy:

When Obama launched his health care project, the case for reform rested on two pillars. One was helping people who had no insurance or were otherwise struggling with the current system. The other was taking dramatic steps to halt the growth in costs. As the debate lurches toward a close, the emphasis in Obama’s plan now rests overwhelmingly on the first pillar — with only the most modest and preliminary measures being embraced for cost control.

“[...] And now, at least until after 2017, it doesn’t look like they will bend the cost curve,” said Ken Thorpe, an Emory University professor and Democratic health policy adviser.

Despite all of the rhetoric of the last year or so about cost-containment, there was never any serious attempt by the White House or the congressional Democrats to actually propose any serious cost bending provisions.  The problem of course, is that any real cost measures would involve rationing or abolishing the fee for service model—none of which was ever discussed.

I don’t expect liberals to be swayed on this but is there really anyone out there who still believes that healthcare reform is a truly genuine effort by Barack Obama to actually reform the system?  That it was never about politics?  Or that it was about putting a bureaucratic structure in place that would benefit his political donors for decades?

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